For a city that proclaims to be one of the greenest in the nation, recycling in Chicago is not easy. Since the blue bag program was phased out (as it should have been! Despite the ads on the el depicting Streets and San guys in HazMat-type suits plucking blue bags from mounds of garbage, I seriously doubt that the program was very [if at all] effective), and the blue cart program (a much better idea!) won't be completely in place for another three years, keeping my recyclables out of the landfills requires a lot of effort on my part.
I currently collect recyclables in bins in my dining room. When the bins are full, I bag the contents and transfer them to the trunk of my car. When my trunk is full, I drive WAAAAAAY up north to the nearest of the city's 16 drop-off centers, park my car, stand on my tippy toes to open one of the lids on the dumpster-sized blue bins in the parking lot, heave heavy bags of old newspapers, plastic containers, glass bottles, and the like over my head and into said bins, reach up again to close the lid, then get back in my car and make the 15-minute drive back to my neighborhood.
I know of a couple other friends who have adopted similar routines... One drives carfuls of recyclables to her parents' house in the North suburbs, and another sneaks through the alleys in the ward to the north in the dead of night, trying to find a coveted blue cart with enough space left in it to hold the bags that she's carrying.
If this seems a little extreme, that's because it is. I know my friends and I may be a little crazy, but I also know that we're not like most people. Sadly, most people currently don't have the time or the means to recycle in this city--although many have the desire--and either opt for (or resort to) the convenience of the trash instead, because everybody has that.
I hope to chronicle my recycling adventures in future posts and share my experiences with others. I also want to offer (and receive!) suggestions and ideas on improving the recycling efforts in Chicago. I know that bringing about change in this city won't be easy, but I'm hoping for the best.